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Displaying items by tag: Loughs Agency

The Loughs Agency has welcomed the announcement of its new Board Chairperson, Heather Mackey, who is also the first female appointee in the role. The appointment was officially announced at a meeting of the North South Ministerial Council (NSMC) held this week.

Loughs Agency’s Board is responsible for ensuring that the Agency’s statutory functions and strategic plans are implemented effectively and efficiently.

Ms Mackey, a native of Co. Galway, has served as an independent non-executive Board Member of Loughs Agency since 2016. Her appointment as Chairperson will take effect from 13th December 2021.

Loughs Agency CEO, Sharon McMahon congratulated Ms Mackey on her appointment as incoming Board Chairperson. “Heather has served on Loughs Agency’s Board for the past five years and is a dedicated ambassador on behalf of the Agency. She brings a wealth of expertise and guidance to the Board in setting the strategic direction for the Agency and is passionate about the work that we carry out in the Foyle and Carlingford areas.”

“I am delighted that Heather will also become the first female Chairperson of our Board and we all look forward to working with her in her new capacity, taking over the reins from our esteemed Chairperson Laurence Arbuckle.”

Commenting on her appointment, Heather Mackey said it was an honour and a privilege to be stepping into the role as Chair of Loughs Agency’s Board which reports to the NSMC and its government Sponsor Departments – Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) in Northern Ireland and the Department of the Environment, Climate and Communications (DECC) in Ireland.

Ms Mackey said: “I am delighted to have received the opportunity to serve on Loughs Agency’s Board as Chairperson. I am looking forward to further assisting and supporting the excellent work carried out by the Agency as part of their functions providing effective conservation, management, promotion and development of the fisheries and marine resources of the Foyle and Carlingford areas in a key time for the organisation, particularly whilst we all help address the climate crisis.”

Laurence Arbuckle, outgoing Chairperson of Loughs Agency’s Board, also expressed his best wishes to the new incumbent following today’s announcement and thanked Ms Mackey for her valued contribution to date as an independent non-executive Member of the Board.

Heather Mackey is an experienced Communications Director with over 20 years’ experience in strategic communications and advises numerous boards providing governance, business and communications support. A seasoned traveller, Ms Mackey has visited over 40 countries.

Ms Mackey founded the Galway-based public relations company, Ace Media, in 2009. She currently works as a publicist for many arts organisations in Galway, including the Galway Film Fleadh, Irish Film and Television Academy, Galway 2020 European Capital of Culture and TULCA Festival of Visual Arts and Blue Teapot Theatre Company. She previously worked as a TV producer for Bloomberg Television in London. She also works as a media lecturer and holds a Masters in Journalism from NUI, Galway.

Published in News Update
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Field personnel from the Ocean Tracking Network (OTN) based at Dalhousie University in Nova Scotia are currently in the North West working with the team servicing critical animal tracking infrastructure in support of the SeaMonitor project.

Led by the Loughs Agency and supported by eight leading marine research institutions, SeaMonitor is delivering Europe’s largest fish monitoring array using advanced, large-scale technology, as previously reported on Afloat.ie.

The project aims to track the movements of some of the ocean’s most vulnerable species including Atlantic salmon, flapper skate, basking sharks, seals and cetaceans.

Data collected by researchers will be used to help inform marine policy and management frameworks and support conservation measures.

OTN field personnel Cassandra Hartery and Caitlin Bate have been carrying out expert field work coordinated alongside Diego del Villar, senior scientific officer for the SeaMonitor project at the Loughs Agency, using large-scale acoustic telemetry equipment.

“OTN has once again come up trumps for the agency and the SeaMonitor project by lending their expertise to help our team with the retrieval and redeployment of Europe’s largest array,” said Loughs Agency chief executive Sharon McMahon.

“The ocean is a massive, dynamic and challenging environment to work in. Our priority is to get the equipment safely out of the water and I am delighted at the excellent progress to deliver such significant and innovative marine research data that will ultimately help protect some of our most important and vulnerable marine species.

“The agency’s specialist team together with project partners are continuing to work hard to ensure project objectives are delivered whilst following COVID-19 protocols and the amazing work undertaken recently puts us well ahead of schedule.”

Funding for the SeaMonitor project has been provided under the environment objective of the European Union’s INTERREG VA Programme, which is managed by the Special EU Programmes Body (SEUPB), to the tune of €4.7m.

Match-funding for this project has been provided by the Department for Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) in Northern Ireland and the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government in Ireland.

Key support and expertise was also provided by DEARA whose vessel, The Queen of Ulster, was used to take the project scientists out for the retrievals last week. Other vital field work was carried out at Loughs Agency headquarters in Derry and in Lough Foyle.

For more information about the project visit the Lough Agency’s SeaMonitor portal or follow the project on Twitter at @SeaMonitor1.

Published in Marine Science
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A section of riverbank in Co Tyrone which was eroded by flash flooding has been stabilised as part of a wider habitat enhancement project being progressed by the Loughs Agency.

Flood waters in the Owenkillew River had stripped the 160m riverbank area of vegetation, and trees became unstable resulting in subsidence and suspended solids entering the river at Beltrim Estate in Gortin.

Loughs Agency chief executive Sharon McMahon said the site was identified as needing support to improve water quality for the benefit of downstream salmonid spawning sites.

“Managing and supporting a sustainable wild fishery is a careful balance of conservation, protection and letting nature take its course,” she explained.

The Loughs Agency engaged with the landowner who had recently installed fencing to protect the riverbank from livestock access.

Before the riverbank enhancement works on the Owenkillew River in Co Tyrone | Credit: Loughs AgencyDuring the riverbank enhancement works on the Owenkillew River in Co Tyrone | Credit: Loughs AgencyAfter the riverbank enhancement works on the Owenkillew River in Co Tyrone | Credit: Loughs AgencyFrom top: before, during and after the riverbank enhancement works on the Owenkillew River in Co Tyrone | Credit: Loughs Agency

Larch timber poles were then driven into the edge of the river to reinforce the bank, while layers of horizontal poles were fixed to protect the base of the riverbank. Brash was installed behind the poles to help catch silt and debris and naturalise the bank.

The area behind the revetment was planted with native broadleaf trees including hazel, oak and alder. Willow was also planted tight into the riverbank so that the root structure would help stabilise the bank, further reducing erosion.

While the riverbank has naturalised with trees and plants becoming established during the summer, the invasive Himalayan balsam plant has unfortunately also established itself. The agency says it hopes to reduce coverage on this non-native species by removing stems before it goes to seed next year.

Seamus Cullinan, fishery inspector at the Loughs Agency, said: “It is important to understand the cause of riverbank erosion and design the most appropriate solution to mitigate against it. This type of green engineering is sustainable and effective at providing long-term stabilisation and benefits for the fishery.”

Loughs Agency has used green engineering solutions in other sites in Northern Ireland's Foyle catchment, where persistent water flow and floods are responsible for removing bank material, causing erosion and subsidence.

The Owenkillew, Camowen, Glenelly and Finn rivers are among several river enhancement projects scheduled for this year.

Published in Angling
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The ability to track free-swimming salmon juveniles has been extended hundreds of kilometres into the open ocean using advanced robotic technology.

As part of the EU INTERREG VA-funded SeaMonitor project, Dr Ross O'Neill of the Marine Institute and Kieran Adlum, P&O Maritime, tested a remotely operated ocean glider along the steeply sloping area of the shelf edge some 130km north-west of the Scottish Hebrides.

The torpedo-shaped device, equipped with an acoustic tag detector, was deployed from the RV Celtic Explorer on 16 April during the 2021 Irish Anglerfish and Megrim Survey.

This is the first time such active tracking technology has been applied to Atlantic salmon in Europe.

During its two-month mission, the glider successfully detected four individual juvenile salmon smolts measuring only 15-19cm, nearly 600km from their home rivers in Ireland, Northern Ireland and Scotland.

These fish had been tagged between four and six weeks previously with electronic acoustic transmitting tags along with hundreds of other juvenile salmon as part of the SeaMonitor project as well as the West Coast Tracking Project, a partnership between the Atlantic Salmon Trust, Fisheries Management Scotland and Marine Scotland, EU INTERREG VA-funded COMPASS project and Agri-Food Biosciences Institute (AFBI) research initiatives.

One of the main aims of these projects is to investigate the persistent low marine survival of Atlantic salmon in the early stages of their oceanic migration to feeding grounds in the North Atlantic.

The four fish originated from the River Burrishoole in Co Mayo, the River Bann in Northern Ireland and the rivers Clyde and Awe in Scotland.

Up to now, most tracking studies had been limited to estuarine or coastal areas due to technology limitations and the need for stationary receivers.

Map showing SeaMonitor Atlantic salmon smolt detection and release locations

According to Dr Niall Ó Maoiléidigh of the Marine Institute and principal investigator for the SeaMonitor project: “The detection of these fish confirms the importance of the shelf edge in this amazing journey, as the faster currents associated with the steep slopes most likely act as an aquatic transport system facilitating the northward migration of these tiny fish through a very harsh environment.”

Prof Colin Adams of the University of Glasgow and principal investigator for the SeaMonitor Project added: “This study shows that tracking salmon over considerable distances at sea can be achieved which is crucial for research into highly migratory marine species especially where mortality may be occurring far from the shore.”

Dr Ciaran Kelly, director of fisheries ecosystems and advisory services at the Marine Institute, said: “The use of the glider to track the movements of even very small fish has been clearly demonstrated and this will encourage the use of autonomous underwater vehicles to improve information on many marine species of animals which may be endangered or threatened without interfering with their natural migrations.”

The SeaMonitor project is “breaking the boundaries of research into the marine migration journey of the iconic Atlantic salmon”, said Loughs Agency chief executive Sharon McMahon.

“This innovative research will help to identify migratory routes and factors influencing salmon survival at sea, providing data to inform future research and decision making.”

The glider is part of the SeaMonitor integrated cross-jurisdiction major network of acoustic receivers, robotic underwater vehicles, satellite tracking and passive acoustic receivers in European waters and its use will be extended to track cetaceans, basking shark and skates as well as to collect physical oceanographic data.

When combined, the data will enable a holistic view of the regions mobile marine species and will prove invaluable to the regions managers, as well as establishing an integrated network of marine receivers for future applications and extended monitoring.

Match-funding for the project has been provided by Northern Ireland’s Department of Agriculture, Environment & Rural Affairs (DAERA) and the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage in Ireland.

For more information about the project visit the Lough Agency’s SeaMonitor portal or follow the project on Twitter at @SeaMonitor1.

Published in Marine Science

TV weather presenter Barra Best learned about the iconic Atlantic salmon from school pupils at the recent virtual Salmon Ambassador conference hosted by the Loughs Agency.

The conference was the culmination of a five-month primary school education programme that encouraged pupils to learn about their local river system.

It included a range of activities and topics such as salmon life cycles, migration, conservation, preservation, restoration and the role of the Loughs Agency.

School pupils also received regular video updates of live salmonids and watched as the eggs developed, hatched and matured to the fry and parr stage of their life cycle.

At the conference, which Barra Best compered, nearly 200 pupils gathered virtually and presented animations, videos, posters and works of art to their fellow Salmon Ambassadors, with each class focusing on a particular life stage.

Pupils highlighted the habitat in which the fish live, the food they eat, the natural threats they face and the impact of human activities and waste on their health and survival.

Loughs Agency CEO Sharon McMahon said: “The children who participated in Salmon Ambassadors are the next generation of environmentalists, anglers, fishery officers, teachers, scientists and caretakers for the natural world.

“I hope that Salmon Ambassadors has inspired them to care passionately about our planet and instilled in them the importance of living in balance with nature.”

The Loughs Agency initiated Salmon Ambassadors as part of the International Year of the Salmon to help connect young people to the incredible fish that inhabits the Foyle and Carlingford river catchments. For more information see the Loughs Agency website HERE.

Published in Marine Wildlife
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The Loughs Agency has issued advice for any anglers in the Foyle and Carlingford catchments who have made unusual catches in recent weeks.

Those who suspect they have caught an escaped farmed Atlantic salmon, escaped farmed Rainbow trout, escaped farmed brown trout, non-native pink salmon or fish displaying external or internal signs of disease are directed to follow the advice below:

  • Please report to DAERA Inland Fisheries at [email protected] or the Loughs Agency at [email protected]
  • If possible take a picture prior to release and attach this to any report.
  • Do not dispatch fish unless in line with current fisheries regulations and bag limits.

DAERA Inland Fisheries and the Loughs Agency will monitor reports and develop further advice if required.

Published in Angling
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The Loughs Agency says it welcomes the news that Derry City and Strabane District Council’s Business and Culture Committee have endorsed the proposal to host the Clipper Round the World Yacht Race in 2022.

Northern Ireland was previously scheduled to host the Clipper fleet in Derry last summer but those plans were scuppered with the postponement of the race amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Sharon McMahon, Loughs Agency chief executive, said: “As an organisation that cares deeply about the Foyle and its surrounding areas, Loughs Agency is delighted to welcome the Foyle Maritime Festival and Clipper Race back to our doorsteps in 2022.

”The number of local people getting involved in water-based activities is steadily on the rise, and this festival gives us the opportunity to showcase our picturesque rivers and loughs to an international audience, thus aiding in the development of marine tourism.

“We look forward to playing a role in supporting the festival and using the opportunity to highlight the social, economic and environmental benefits of the Foyle and our rivers in general.”

Speaking at a recent Business and Culture Meeting of Derry City and Strabane District Council, head of culture Aeidin McCarter said: “If you look back to 2018, the last Foyle Maritime Festival attracted almost 211,000 attendees, achieving over 19,000 bed nights and an estimated economic impact of at least £2 million for the local economy.

”That gives an idea of the significance of the Festival and the Clipper Race in terms of its capacity to draw visitors from all over the world as well as international media coverage of all the North West has to offer.

“Needless to say, we are delighted to resume our partnership with Clipper Ventures, and we hope that, circumstances permitting, we will be able to adapt and deliver on the plans which came to such an abrupt halt last year.”

Published in Clipper Race

The Loughs Agency has announced that angling permits for its waters on the River Finn and River Foyle, including the Greenbraes, are now available to purchase online.

Online permits will make angling in these rivers even more accessible, particularly during the current COVID-19 government restrictions when many tackle shops are closed.

Loughs Agency permits provide access to some of the best quality fishing locations in the Foyle system, which is famous for its salmon and trout angling.

The River Foyle is a large tidal river that begins its seaward journey near Strabane in Co Tyrone and Lifford in Co Donegal at the confluence of the River Mourne and River Finn, spilling into Lough Foyle at Culmore Point in Co Derry.

Along its length are several fishing hotspots, including Mary’s Pool, the Gribben, Corkan Island and the Backwater, where anglers can cast a line for salmon, brown trout and sea trout.

The Finn is a well-known spate river for spring fish, but it also maintains a good run of salmon throughout the season. Sea trout fishing is best from July to mid-August.

For the 2021 season, the regulations for the River Foyle and Finn require total catch and release for all salmon caught, and anglers must use single barbless hooks.

For more information on fishing in the Foyle catchment, visit the angling section of Loughs Agency's website. To purchase a permit, visit the Loughs Agency's elicence website. Prices are as follows:

  • River Finn permit: £20/€24 for adults £10/€12 for juveniles
  • River Foyle permit: £20/€24 for adults £10/€12 for juveniles
  • Greenbraes morning permit: £15/€17 8am to 3pm
  • Greenbraes afternoon permit: £18/€20.50 4pm to midnight
Published in Angling

Over £80,000 has been invested in habitat enhancement projects in the River Roe catchment area in Co Derry during the past two years, the Loughs Agency says.

More than 20 sites within the Roe catchment were prioritised by the agency as a result of an assessment process conducted with habitat surveys and local angling club engagement.

Investment since 2019 included installing 6,500m of riparian fencing along the Bovevagh, Castle, Lynn, Owenbeg and Woodburn rivers and adjacent to the main River Roe itself.

Native trees planted previously to increase tree cover in the Roe’s upper reaches have been pruned to encourage growth, and around 4,000 tree guards were removed.

Instream works were also completed in the headwaters to ensure suitable spawning habitat for salmonids.

This is regarded as an area of special scientific interest (ASSI) because of the river’s physical features and its associated riverine flora and fauna. It is noted in particular for the population of Atlantic salmon, which is of international importance.

Riparian fencing, tree planting and associated works will improve water quality with increased bank stability and reduced erosion risk, the Loughs Agency says.

‘At a time when our rivers generally are under threat, this work will hopefully prove its worth in the years ahead and help sustain this valuable resource’

Biodiversity support, protection of invertebrates and indigenous fish populations in the River Roe and its tributaries are all key features of ongoing river restoration in the catchment area, it adds.

Roly Wysner, fishery inspector at the Loughs Agency, said: “The positive engagement between Loughs Agency and landowners cannot be understated.

“We worked with landowners who were very willing to participate and understood the rationale for the installations. They appreciated how it would feed into achieving sustainable management of both the riparian and aquatic habitats.”

Local club Roe Angling Ltd also welcomed the projects. A spokesperson said: “At a time when our rivers generally are under threat from a number of sources, this work by Loughs Agency will hopefully prove its worth in the years ahead and help sustain this valuable resource.

“The success of this programme is also indicative of the positive relationship that exists between Loughs Agency and landowners.”

The Loughs Agency’s Habitat Improvement Strategy outlines works associated with conserving, protecting, and improving the abundance and distribution of wild salmon and trout in Foyle and Carlingford’s freshwater catchments.

For more information on Loughs Agency’s habitat enhancement work or to read the full case study for the Roe catchment, visit the habitat section of the Loughs Agency website.

Published in Angling

The Loughs Agency says it shares its stakeholders’ concerns about the impact of cormorants predating on juvenile salmon during the annual smolt migration.

Unlike other salmon predators, cormorants are a protected species under Article 4 of the Wildlife (Northern Ireland) Order 1985.

Given the legal protection of this marine wildlife species, the management and population surveys are the responsibility of the Wildlife Section of the Biodiversity and Conservation Science Unit, Northern Ireland Environment Agency (NIEA) and their counterparts in the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS).

Angling clubs and fishery managers in Northern Ireland should be aware of the process to apply for the appropriate licence to assist in managing these birds and other actions, including scaring the birds to move them on, after agreement with wildlife officers from NIEA.

The NIEA advises that under Article 18 of the Wildlife (Northern Ireland) Order 1985, an application can only be legally processed if it can be shown that:

  • There is no other satisfactory solution, and;
  • The licence is issued to prevent serious damage to a fishery.
Published in Angling
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